Nutanix acquires Frame: analysis

Nutanix is much more than just a storage or HCI vendor, and acquiring a desktop virtualization platform brings them directly into this complex aspect of EUC.

On Thursday evening, Nutanix announced their intent to acquire Frame. Terms were not yet disclosed, but as Nutanix is a public company, we should learn some details at some point.

This marks the first exit among the current crop of smaller and newer desktop as a service (DaaS) providers. (I guess these days we also have to point out that we’re talking virtual desktops, and not rented laptops, when we say DaaS.) This also marks another software milestone for a hyperconverged infrastructure vendor that’s going deep into the data center and cloud infrastructure software market.


We (by which I mean, the website) first took note of Nutanix in 2011, with Brian declaring them his current favorite startup vendor and  asking “Did Nutanix just create the ultimate server/storage big data combo hardware for VDI?” (Also for a blast from the past, check out this Nutanix video interview from VMworld 2011.)

By 2013, we were talking about how new storage vendors and HCI were finally enabling persistent VDI. At BriForum for several years, half the exhibitors in the expo hall would be storage vendors.

So we were sold on HCI, but we also wrote that storage was a commodity. Some vendors got bought, some fizzled out, but since was and is more focused on end user computing, we didn’t follow every move in the HCI space.

As it turns out, Nutanix has been doing a lot of interesting work on the software side. Personally, I knew about Nutanix Acropolis, but somehow I completely missed the Enterprise Cloud OS and Xi Cloud Services from June 2017. They’ll eventually have all types of services everywhere, including in their own (albeit delayed, as I learned) public cloud offering.


We first took note of Frame (or Mainframe2, as it was) in 2013; and more recently we noted their support for Azure, funding, hiring of Ruben Spruijt, and partnership with VMware.

The 2014 wave of DaaS may have been a bit of a false start, but in 2017 and 2018, DaaS is really having a big moment, and Frame is a standout.

The combined vision

Nutanix revealed quite a bit about their reasoning and plans in their press release and blog post.

While VDI no longer makes up the majority of their customer workloads, Nutanix said that it was still near and dear to their heart. They saw the desire for a modern, cloud-native DaaS offering, and Frame was a natural fit.

They plan to make Frame available on Nutanix Xi Cloud, and on Google; as well as continue to offer Frame’s existing AWS and Azure support. Nutanix will use Frame to target mid-market DaaS customers; and for large-scale VDI, they’ll continue their support of VMware Horizon View and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.

For the most telling part of the blog post, I’ll quote directly:

“Launching Frame as a Nutanix Xi Service will be an exciting step in this journey, and we look forward to disrupting yet another layer of the enterprise stack – to bring cloud scale desktops and apps, powered by a 1-click user and admin experience to everyone.”


Frame was clearly the most attractive of the DaaS startups; now we’ll see if this creates a rush for any other vendors to make acquisitions. One thing’s for sure, though—there’s a ton of competition in this market, and the vendor that should be most worried is Citrix.

I’m probably late to the game in saying this next bit (as I acknowledged above, I’m just less of an infrastructure person), but it will be interesting to see how Nutanix competes against VMware and Microsoft long term. Looking at efforts like VMware Cloud on AWS, Microsoft Azure Stack, and OpenStack, it’s clear that Nutanix could be another major player in hybrid cloud.

On the EUC side, I could see VMware dropping the Frame partnership after more time developing Horizon Cloud (sort of like how they drifted away from Teradici as they developed Blast). And sure, Frame may be competing with Horizon at some point, but VMware’s EUC stack is now so much more than just desktop virtualization.

Will Nutanix go any farther into EUC? There’s definitely a play for infrastructure vendors to do DaaS/VDI, since it’s so dependent on complex infrastructure; but other aspects of EUC seem more distant and less likely.

Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting period to watch—I’m really curious where things will go next for Frame and Nutanix. Congratulations to both teams!

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Any comments from Citrix?
Citrix and VMWARE only care about the top fortune 500 customers. That's the bulk of the revenue. All other customers get shitty support and no respect from these vendors. They compete in the workspace suite market now - it is like "all-you-can-eat-buffett" with big volume discounts.Horrible NPS.

The market has 100k customers so Nutanix is going to happily eat small customers over the next 2-3 years and then move up. Nutanix is the easy button. Citrix is the ugly-fat-legacy button.

CTPs will jump on the Nutanix train. They all smell blood.

Vmware and Frame?
Like Vmware and teradici?
Like Vmware and Tanium!
Will the real cloud please stand up?
Citrix has a new architecture for the WEM service. It’s called “client—> f***ng long wire to cloud —-> server” architecture for every customer. It’s industry’s most elastic and elegant cloud-native implementation. High-five!!
I do feel that Nutanix backstab'd Citrix with this one. Nutanix can not keep a straight face now when customers ask about the preferred VDI solution. They claim it's Xi only but there is no way they will say no to AHV support. With so many ex-Citrix employees, Nutanix knows how to call out all the complexity related to Citrix. 

What happened to the partner love:
"Citrix and Nutanix presents Star Wars, The Last Jedi - an Exclusive Screening!"
There’s a ton of competition in this market, and the vendor that should be most worried is Citrix. Why not VMware?
I was thinking in terms of AirWatch and VMware's overall broader portfolio.
I am really disappointed by your take. I come here for neutral commentary but it doesn't seem like that anymore. I hope you can keep it unbiased in future. We have briefed you Workspace strategy. If you look at current SEC filling then you will notice how we have expanded beyond virtual apps and desktops.  
Hi Vishal, 

I was going to say "Yes, of course I know that you have expanded beyond virtual desktops and apps, I've been writing about Citrix's mobility products for 7 years." But I know that's not what you meant to imply, right? :)

I did see that note in the 10-Q about Workspace Service revenue including XenMobile.

Anyway, it's been a while since either company has broken out EMM numbers, and both are pushing workspace marketing messages and licensing. However, I'm looking at this in terms of freestanding AirWatch customers versus freestanding XenMobile customers. Historically, AirWatch has been larger and attracted more destination customers (i.e. customers that were buying EMM alone, as opposed to desktop virt + EMM from the same vendor). This means that XenMobile is more vulnerable to fluctuations in the desktop virt market than AirWatch is.

While we in the industry are thinking of EUC in terms of EMM + virtual desktops + physical desktops + identity and all that, a lot of folks are still thinking in terms of freestanding EMM/MDM, so we need to consider things from that angle, as well.
Jack - here is a blurb from article focusing on DaaS. "Frame was clearly the most attractive of the DaaS startups; now we’ll see if this creates a rush for any other vendors to make acquisitions. One thing’s for sure, though—there’s a ton of competition in this market, and the vendor that should be most worried is Citrix."  Why should ONLY Citrix be worried.  Why should VMware/AWS and other DaaS providers not be worried? You also failed to mention Workspace ONE express which Gabe covered   Did it ever take off? What is the future there?  
I didn't say the others shouldn't be worried. Among the likes of VMware, Citrix, and AWS, Citrix's overall business is the most heavily focused on desktop virtualization, thus the most sensitive to changes in the market.
I have always appreciated your articles and insights. I commented because I wanted to let you know how I felt that you have a bias for the first time. We can agree to disagree on this one. I hope to see at VMworld.
vishalg: what happened to XenServer? Did it every take off? What is the future there?
How many daily active users on Citrix XenDesktop Essentials? It's not a question. It's rather a statutory declaration of the Citrix cry-machine!
Lot of excitement and a bunch of amateurs giving opinions. Questions for Nutanix SKO:

- Are cloud VMs using anonymous login in Frame? Ouch. Security will love the lack of GPOs.

- What's the protocol bandwidth requirement? Looks like it's H.264 and good for 3D/GPU VMs. How will that work for SMB?

- Does it support persistent desktops in the cloud?

- Does it support multi-monitor? How about 4 monitors?

- What's the printing solution? Does it support auto-discovery of printers?

- How much is the CPU requirement on the client side? Thin Clients are not that powerful. Last time I checked Frame was using 20% CPU on a beefy Windows VM.

- USB redirection support?

- How many customers use Frame for real 24*7 work? I heard there are a lot of labs and that's cool.

Game plan is to give away Frame for free with every XI/AHV sale. Can VMware do that?
As Cláudio mentioned in his blog post: perhaps Nutanix can keep the wallet open and pick up some app management and profile management vendors.
It's just like Brian and Gabe said for years, VDI may seem like an infrastructure problem, but end users (and all their associated requirements for apps, data, personalization, USB, etc.) make it much harder.
Current Limitations during Technical Preview (in tech preview for 12 months)
For our Pro 16GB, Pro 56GB, Pro 64GB, and Pro 128GB systems, only one display (Display 1) can deliver GPU accelerated graphics. The second display uses our software-based graphics adapter.

If you attempt to launch more displays than are supported on the running instance, a new browser window will open, but the display will hang on "Launching Application." The same thing will happen if you try to add a display to an Air 4GB or Air 8GB instance. When this happens though, any apps in the initial session window(s) will continue to work normally.

Windows keyboard shortcuts for moving windows from one monitor to another are not currently supported.

Drag and drop editing between displays is not supported.
Could Nutanix and Frame integrate the product into Acropolis and allow for on premise deployments? Basically a "free" App and Desktop delivery offering like they did with Acropolis to eliminate the need for other Hypervisors? With an integrated product Acropolis\Frame could you potentially eliminate HyperV, XenServer, Esxi, Horizon and XenApp\XenDesktop licensing and infrastructure? Might not have all the bells and whistles but could it be good enough for a lot of customers
You are a genius Paul! You can see the future.
When I read the announcement my first thought was this could have a huge impact on Citrix, VMware and even MS to a degree if Nutanix went the route of on premise and free with Nutanix purchases. 

I was asking a question\making a comment as I didn't see Jack specifically call out on-premise integrations and delivering Frame software free or integrated to compete with traditional VMware and Citrix deployments on premise as a bridge to cloud or Hybrid cloud. 
Any market where the incumbents are lazy and disconnected from reality, new leaders will be born!